A few things have become very much apparent in WVU’s last two football games. In the 3rd quarter of the Maryland game as well as the 4th quarter of the Oklahoma game we saw WVU QB Skyler Howard under heavy pressure.
We’ve seen WVU’s high touted CB Daryl Worley get burned twice in the Maryland game and twice in the Oklahoma game. CB Terrell Chestnut was also burned in the Oklahoma game.
While the punt and kick return game is better, it needs work particularly in the area of blocking. We have yet to see a returner return the ball for more than a few yards. However, for the most part the returners are catching the ball when possible, unfortunately even inside the 10.
The running game has improved, primarily for the fact that RB Rushel Shell III is running the ball much better.
The one player on WVU’s team that proves himself every week is safety Karl Joseph. This guy hits like a 20 pound sledge hammer coming at you with speed and power, and no matter how big you are Joseph will plant you.
There is no one on the team that plays with such effort or determination. Joseph never takes a play off. And this is why he will most likely be a 1st round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Joseph brings the hammer every play.
Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has stated that WVU is a run first team, and that the passing game needs to improve. He also took full responsibility for the loss to Oklahoma. Holgorsen has had his fair share of ups and downs as a new head coach, but he is getting better and his recruiting is as well. These are all positive signs going into the future.
The one issue Holgorsen has is that fans want a Big 12 title right now. It has taken Holgorsen awhile to hire the right coaches and to recruit players that fit into WVU’s offensive and defensive schemes. WVU did lose its first Big 12 game this past Saturday to 15th ranked Oklahoma, but WVU’s future is bright.
There will be other miscues this season, primarily because the offense is young and it will take a season or so for them to gel and get comfortable with each other. 2016 & 2017 should be much more productive for Holgorsen, his staff, and the players.
Things that are inexcusable are players going over to the opponent’s sideline and talking trash prior to the game. WVU players have done this twice to Big 12 teams only to be embarrassed on the field by losing both games. The seniors who were part of this at Oklahoma were freshman when they did this at Texas Tech, and should know better.
Since spring practice began I’ve had many people try and convince me that Skyler Howard would be a good starting QB. I have never been convinced of this, but I did have a glimmer of hope when he connected on a 41 TD pass to WR Shelton Gibson against Maryland. Gibson was able to run under the ball in the end-zone. This gave me hope that maybe Howard should be WVU’s starting QB. This is the only pass where Howard led a receiver, allowing him to catch it in stride.
The Oklahoma game soon changed all that. Coach Holgorsen has stated all season that ball security was one reason Howard had gotten the job at QB, but 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles may have even made him a doubter. Howard can only blame himself for the 5 turn-overs.
Howard has only connected on one pass while attempting to scramble, and that was called back as he was on his knees when he threw it.
My issue with Howard being named the started is that I saw no improvement in him from last spring to this spring. He seldom looks down field when running toward the line of scrimmage, and when he does scramble and throw he is off target.
He struggles with the deep ball, and his inability to throw a touch pass has led to 2 of his interceptions as both were too high and tipped in the air. Most QBs can feel pressure coming from the backside, but Howard has yet to develop this sense.
Howard has a lot of heart, but not the skill or talent to be a starting QB in any of the Power 5 Conferences. Holgorsen has stated many times that Howard is the best at executing his offense, but Clint Trickett proved you don’t have to be the best at executing Holgorsen’s offense to win. Holgorsen needs a QB who is an accurate passer.
Being an accurate passer was one of the criteria that Holgorsen has repeatedly stated his QB had to have, and Howard can’t get it done. Even when WVU was winning its first 3 games of the season receivers had to stop and comeback to the ball, for Howard couldn’t hit them in-stride. Against Oklahoma WR Devonte Mathis had to come-back for a catch, and if Howard had hit him in-stride Mathis would have had a TD.
The problem with changing starters now is that none of the other QBs have played a whole quarter of college football in the Big 12. Should Holgorsen start any new QB they will go through growing pains, but they will learn from the school of hard-knocks. On the other-hand it would go a long way to preparing WVU for 2016. The more experience a new QB gets with this offense this year, the better he and the offense will be next year.
Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State should be interesting.